Perceptions on Ideal and Real-World Social and Healthcare Services Management: Evidence from the Czech Republic, Finland, and Portugal Comparison

By Havrdová, Zuzana; Huotari, Paivi | Review of European Studies, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Perceptions on Ideal and Real-World Social and Healthcare Services Management: Evidence from the Czech Republic, Finland, and Portugal Comparison


Havrdová, Zuzana, Huotari, Paivi, Review of European Studies


Abstract

The purpose of this exploratory qualitative research is to map the situation of culture and quality management in social and healthcare (SH) services as experienced by management students in the Czech Republic, Finland, and Portugal. The intercultural theories and contemporary principles of healthcare management form the theoretical background of the research. The explored central phenomenon is conceptualized as the experience of the differences between ideal and rea-world situations in the SH sector. Three mutually dependent analytical categories-management perceptions, environment for SH services, and country-level perceptions with 12 subcategories-have been constructed from the testimonies. The common underlying ideals mirrored in the perceptions have been deconstructed as the result of the cultures of business management and care, which influence the students' perceptions. This exploration has been valuable in defining an under researched territory of cross-cultural management in healthcare. Specific variables and potential dynamics among them are identified, allowing for a more focused study of the phenomenon in the future.

Keywords: cultural differences, healthcare management, healthcare management education, intercultural management, management values

1. Introduction

With more extensive European integration and increasing cross-border mobility, cultural diversity has become a key factor in the education of managers. Even in the training of human resource management (HRM) specialists, international variations and contextual effects are issues that should be considered so that an appropriate level of commonality can be established (Noble, 1997). Numerous studies have acknowledged the effects of cultural values on managerial behavior and actions (Aycan et al., 2000; Hofstede, 2001; Schwartz, 2004) but no such research has been devoted to management in the social and healthcare (SH) sector. This backdrop motivates the present study, which is the first phase of the initiative to develop an international educational program for the SH industry.

The authors of this paper are teachers in an international Erasmus Life Long Learning Programme Care Management (LLP CareMan) project, which was planned in cooperation with five universities from different countries. The CareMan project outlines the development of a joint master's degree program that focuses on SH leadership and management. This program aims to prepare individuals to effectively manage and integrate SH services in an international context.

This paper is the result of the first phase of cooperation (Note 1). Its goals are as follows:

a) to explore the differences in the SH management students' perceptions between the ideal and realistic situations (values vs. practices) that characterize the SH sector,

b) to determine the underlying ideals mirrored in the discrepancies in perceptions,

c) to determine whether cultural differences emerge from the materials produced during focus group (FG) interviews, and

d) to incorporate the emerging issues into the development of a common master's program.

2. Method

2.1 Design and Research Questions

An exploratory qualitative research was conducted based on in-depth group interviews (FGs). The explored central phenomenon was conceptualized as the experience of the differences between ideal and real-world (I-R) situations in the SH sector. We examined this issue by inquiring about the opinions and reflections of management students from three countries: the Czech Republic, Finland, and Portugal. The participants had previous real-world experiences in SH practice, with some of them practicing in different countries. Concurrently, their education exposed them to industry "ideals" in the form of theoretical management concepts and examples of good praxis. The questions in the national FGs were deliberately oriented toward the core perceived discrepancies between ideal and real-world situations; these perceptions emerged from the participants' experiences. …

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